‘Seed Swap’ grows in second year

Discover why lots of people came to outer East Portland to trade seeds, not buy them …

From all over the metro area, gardeners come to the Hazelwood neighborhood for the second annual “Seed Swap”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For the second year in a row, the all-Portland “Seed Swap” took over the large meeting room at Midland Regional Library on January 28.

Gathering around the tables that had been set up, hobbyist gardeners browsed among countless selections of seeds, all of them from locally-grown plants.

A large turnout at the event pleases Grow Portland Executive Director David Beller.

Looking around the room, Grow Portland Executive Director David Beller observed, “I think we have more than two hundred people participating today, all sharing seeds that they’ve saved from their gardens.

“This is an opportunity for people who ‘grow things’ to get to know each other, as well as share seeds,” Beller remarked to East Portland News.

Many of those who came enjoyed finding out about new seeds they can try out in their gardens this summer.

While this sort of organized seed-swapping event is relatively new here, it’s an old practice across the United States, held in conjunction with National Seed Swap Day, Beller explained. “There are several hundreds of these events happening all across the nation, where folks meet to share seeds, and preserve genetic diversity – and also to disseminate locally-adapted and relevant crops.”

Grow Portland Garden Educator Jennie London is ready to introduce the day’s guest speaker, Putsata Reang, a noted journalist and author.

New this year was featured speaker, journalist, and author, Putsata Reang.

“I’m speaking about our early Chinese immigrants, and Portland’s first urban farmers, whom – as a matter of practice – exchanged seeds,”  Reang said. After his appearance, he reflected, “I hope people left the talk with a clear notion and good feeling about seed-swapping, and how it’s a shared history and a shared identity.

“Seed swapping happens here in Portland, just as it does in villages from Cambodia [Kampuchea], where my family came from; it’s a wonderful community affair,” he smiled.

Mark Des Marets shows his locally-grown shwi peh Burmese pole pea seeds.

While all of the seeds at this event were locally grown, Mark Des Marets found many of those present eager to trade for his exotic plant variety seeds.

“I traveled to Burma in 2008, around in the mountainous area, and I thought the climate there was fairly similar to that of Portland, so I asked the farmers there if they would share some of their seeds, and they where happy to do so,” Des Marets said.

“Not only did I get the pole peas I also received seeds for  beans, flowers and all kinds of stuff to do really well here,” he remarked. “So here I am, swapping Oregon-grown seeds in Burma, halfway around the world, and now the reverse here, thanks to farmers who shared with me,” he added.

New “seed swappers” Raquel Branscum and Tim Murphy say their trip from the St. Johns neighborhood was well worth the drive.

While Grow Portland is focused on serving outer East Portland, everyone from throughout the region are welcome to attend these swaps, Beller pointed out. “I’m really glad to see so many people turn out for this; it bridges the divide between East Portland and the rest of Portland.”

To learn more about Grow Portland, see their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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